As Operation Protective Edge was winding down, I was invited along with a group of journalists to visit the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. There, hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian goods were being transferred into the Strip – a scene repeated every day during the war, as it is throughout the year – containing hundreds of thousands of tons of food, medical supplies and other basic staples.
With some 2,000 people killed, thousands more wounded, and hundreds of thousands displaced, Israel was affording some much needed relief to Gazans, who undeniably suffered greatly during the conflict.
While widespread criticism has been directed at the Israeli government over said death toll, the Jewish state’s concern for the wellbeing of civilians was apparent when visiting Kerem Shalom – which, perhaps not by coincidence, translates into “vineyard of peace.”
But the good-will is entirely lost on Hamas.
Aside from military installations, the crossing was one of the most dangerous places to be within Israel during the latest round of hostilities. Hamas targeted the Kerem Shalom crossing multiple times daily during the war with mortar and even sniper fire.
While we were on-site, a Color Red alert was sounded followed by an audible explosion nearby. The head of our tour made clear that those working at the crossing were risking their lives.
It is difficult for the Western mind to conceptualize Hamas’ ideology; these types of tangible examples, however, demonstrate the terror group’s barbarism, tantamount to outright depravity.
How could Hamas target, almost more than any other location during the war, the very place where aid was being delivered to its citizenry? How is it that when Israel went so far as to set up a field hospital to treat wounded Palestinians, Hamas went to great lengths to prevent Gazans from receiving the medical care they so desperately needed? The answer is that Hamas wants its people to suffer, which it uses as leverage in its war against Israel.
The effect is two-fold: First, it creates a humanitarian crisis that not only contributes to the ongoing effort to delegitmize Israel, but also brings about tremendous international pressure on the Israeli government to limit its tactical, military options.
Second, it deflects blame onto Jerusalem for Hamas’ gross failure of governance and the usage of its people as sacrificial lambs.
Concisely, the more the people of Gaza suffer, and the more of them that die, the closer Hamas gets to achieving its terrorist and, indeed, genocidal goal.
This twisted reality is perhaps best understood when considering that Hamas uses its funds, not to invest in schools and hospitals, but rather to develop weaponry and other elaborate terror infrastructure, most notably its vast maze of underground tunnels, built purposely in civilian areas from which it launches its attacks.
Gazans will never know freedom under such circumstances, while living under the iron fist of a bloodthirsty organization that values the murder of Jews more than life of its own people.
From Israel’s standpoint the reason Hamas must ultimately be destroyed is equally clear.
As Israeli troops were unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza after having supposedly achieved their operational goals, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon stated that, “Hamas had been set back five years.”
It is worth noting that Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s last ground incursion into the Strip, ended in 2009 – five years ago.
Is achieving a few years of relative “quiet” truly a legitimate military objective? Have thousands of people on both sides of the conflict been killed and wounded over the past four weeks so that this cycle of events may be repeated every half-decade? The question, then, becomes one of politics; namely, can a durable, long-term truce actually be forged with an organization like Hamas? It clearly viewed the 2012 ceasefire agreement, ending Operation Pillar of Defense, as worth less than the paper it was written on.
It seems, therefore, that only one logical conclusion can be drawn; that there is a fundamental flaw in the Israeli government’s logic. That in the absence of a major and highly unlikely breakthrough, all roads lead to the same place, and just as Protective Edge was more costly, on a human level, than was Cast Lead, so too will the next round of fighting extract more blood and treasure that did its precedents.
The answer is to begin viewing Hamas for what it truly is – pure, unbridled and senseless evil, a terrorist group that preaches death and destruction, rather than justice and morality.
There were earlier periods when much of the world understood that ideologies like those expounded by Hamas pose a mortal threat to humanity and had therefore to be eliminated, and not negotiated with.
Very few doubted the legitimacy of the need to vanquish the Nazis during WWII, or of the Cold War against communism.
But as society has increasingly adopted a morally relativistic view of the world, the line between good and evil has been progressively blurred, to the contemporary point of willful blindness.
It is high time to refocus.
So long as Hamas exists, the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians will continue to be plagued, precluding the possibility of them together ever sowing the seeds, or perhaps one day even growing real vineyards, of peace.
The author is a correspondent for i24News, an international television network broadcasting from Israel.